To sing a song that old was sung,
From ashes ancient Gower is come,
Assuming man's infirmities,
To glad your ear and please your eyes.
It hath been sung at festivals,
On ember-eves and holidays,
evening before ember-days [church quarterly 3-day period of fasting and prayer]
And lords and ladies in their lives
Have read it for restoratives.
The purchase is to make men glorious,
Et bonum quo antiquius eo melius.
and the older a good thing is, the better
If you, born in these latter times
When wit's more ripe, accept my rhymes,
wit (n.) 1
intelligence, wisdom, good sense, mental ability
And that to hear an old man sing
May to your wishes pleasure bring,
I life would wish, and that I might
Waste it for you like taper-light.
This Antioch, then. Antiochus the Great
Built up this city for his chiefest seat,
The fairest in all Syria;
I tell you what mine authors say.
This king unto him took a peer,
Who died and left a female heir,
So buxom, blithe, and full of face,
As heaven had lent her all his grace;
With whom the father liking took,
And her to incest did provoke.
Bad child, worse father, to entice his own
To evil should be done by none;
But custom what they did begin
Was with long use accounted no sin.
The beauty of this sinful dame
Made many princes thither frame
frame (v.) 5
direct one's steps, shape a course, betake oneself
To seek her as a bedfellow,
In marriage pleasures playfellow;
Which to prevent he made a law,
To keep her still and men in awe,
That whoso asked her for his wife,
His riddle told not, lost his life.
So for her many a wight did die,
As yon grim looks do testify.
What now ensues, to the judgement of your eye–
I give my cause, who best can justify.